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There’s a very good chance that Will Ferrell is the flat-out funniest comedian to ever schtick it up on the stages of Saturday Night Live. Sure, Bill Murray has certainly proved to be a national treasure, and the you-never-know mania of John Belushi still grants the hard-living fat man a certain relevance all these years after his ugly demise. But no matter how pitiful the skit—or, for that matter, the movie or the talk show or the sitcom—Ferrell, with his doughy-white-guy bod and his dopey who-me? mug, always manages to be brilliant despite the rampant lameness around him. (Hell, that Gap ad featuring Ferrell as a circa-Hot August Night Neil Diamond is the most entertaining thing on television these days, glorious world of cable and all.) So it doesn’t bode well for Zoolander, in which the SNLer plays an ineptly evil fashion designer, that Ferrell is somehow kept laughlessly in check for the duration of this middling comedy. To explain the egregious missed opportunity, look no further than the movie’s director: Ben Stiller is the man who made hyperham Jim Carrey look positively somnambulant in The Cable Guy, so Ferrell shouldn’t feel too responsible for his own subpar performance. A vanity project about vanity, Zoolander features Stiller as a blissfully clueless three-time Male Model of the Year—his purse-lipped, squinty-eyed “Blue Steel” pose is legendary (and kinda funny)—who is suddenly unseated from his vacuous throne by nature-boy newcomer Hansel, played by a game Owen Wilson. Further plot involves a soul-searching Zoolander returning home to “Coal-Mining Country, Southern New Jersey,” where his blue-collar father (Jon Voight) is ashamed that his son once played a mermaid in a commercial. (“I was a merman!” Zoolander counters.) And there’s a whole lotta nonsense involving the “really, really good-looking” hero being unknowingly recruited to assassinate the president of Malaysia. But don’t bother trying to follow the muddled action: Zoolander is basically an occasionally amusing loose adaptation of Mike Myers’ Austin Powers series, with Stiller’s international model of mystery inexplicably wooing the ladies with his goofy chimplike looks—and somehow saving the day with a blast of his potent mojo. (That would be his mythic “Magnum” pose.) There are a handful of clever moments scattered throughout, including a runway “walk-off” between Zoolander and Hansel and an orgy scene involving two Finnish dwarves, a Maori tribesman, and a Time magazine writer (Stiller’s real-life wife, Christine Taylor). And a wink-wink cameo by David Duchovny as a haunted hand model helps alleviate the burden of the movie’s saggy midsection. Nevertheless, it should tell you something that Zoolander’s best bit involves a big, bobbing boner with a mind of its own. —Sean Daly